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Best Comeuppance

Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions

Posted 9/19/2001

Johns Hopkins is very important to Baltimore. We get that. What we've never really gotten is the huge research institution's arrogance vis--vis Baltimore. For years the community surrounding Hopkins' East Baltimore campus has decayed, ravaged by unemployment, drugs, violence, and vacant housing. Yet Hopkins stands strong, wealthy, and tall, removed from the squalor in its midst (except when it comes to securing more real estate for its facilities). At the same time, it has at best delayed and at worst resisted paying lower-echelon employees (janitors, food-service workers) a living wage, and has silently acquiesced to questionable labor practices by some of its contractors. All these actions (or inactions) affect the lives of poor and working-class Baltimoreans. But when the notion of taxing nonprofits came up during this year's city-budget battle, Hopkins led the indignant fight against it--as if the greatest issue concerning the relationship between the world's wealthiest research institution and its home city was the possibility that it would have to pay for municipal services like the rest of us. (Faced with a permanent energy levy, Hopkins and other big nonprofits eventually acceded to lump-sum payments in lieu of taxes; see "Best Tax Initiative That Never Was," page 25.)

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